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[personal profile] lucyshoe66
I don't have what my parents call "faith". Nominally I was a Protestant Anglican until I was old enough to realize that this isn't something you are born into and then must carry through the rest of your life unquestioned. By the time I had even a vague understanding of what "faith" was (and I'm still not entirely clear), I don't think I had any. Or if I had it, it wasn't in the sorts of things that were accepted by my non-churchgoing but nonetheless Christian by upbringing parents.

I remember as an 18 year-old having an argument with them about it. They were insistant that faith was something that I might cast aside now, but would clamour for some day in the future. It was a little prescient that my father said this to me all those years ago because in a way it has become true - for him. My parents were very, very casual Christians - we went to church up until the time I was 8 or 9, after which Jeff and I revolted against the indignities of Sunday School and my parents came to the conclusion that not only were we too difficult to deal with on Sunday mornings, but that there were probably a lot of things they could be accomplishing around the house and garden in the time they had regularly been devoting to the Sunday morning service. So we stopped.

One of my best friends was Catholic (margie, the one who prayed over our broken washing machine and could fit her fist (and an orange) into her mouth - though not at the same time) and the other was Greek Orthodox and my very best friend was Dutch Reform. They all disappeared for lengthy periods on Sundays and sometimes even Saturdays, and what they did with that time was a big mystery to me. Even when we were going to church, the service was a little over an hour at most. Whatever their religions dictated to them seemed unweildy and intrusive to me even as a little girl, but it was also elusive and mysterious and I was a little jealous that I didn't know what I was missing. I remember Margie making us all kneel down in my driveway to pray for Cat Stevens - something which embarassed me terribly and made me feel silly and resentful and "bad" because I didn't want to, but then also "powerful" as if we were practicing magic. Allison wasn't allowed to go to the cinema with us on Sundays, and if we were playing at her house we would not be allowed to use scissors to cut out pictures. When I ate over at their house I was made, as the guest, to say Grace, and the only one I knew, which we only used in our home on jokey occasions (Good bread, good meat, Good God let's eat) I wouldn't have dared to repeat at their table. Instead I was coaxed line by line by her mother in some long and serious prayer which again made me feel both strange and embarassed and resentful. Georgia's religion seemed the most fascinating to me because the entire family looked so festive every Sunday, as if they were travelling to a very fancy party every Sunday morning instead of a boring sermon. For years I imagine that the Greek church must be filled with music and dancing and bazooki players.

I made a stab at becoming (or acting more like) a Christian once. It was the year after my terrible highschool boyfriend, when I found what I thought was the perfect antidote - a devout Baptist boy. He dragged me along to youth nights at his church and introduced me to the enormous social scene that I had never realized surrounded the religion. He "assigned" me readings from the bible and encouraged me to ask questions and would write out long essay-like answers for me. He introduced me to his pastor. He was, to me, a shiningly good person, which coming directly on the heels of a relationship with a destructively bad guy seemed like all I could hope for. The great irony of this was that at the time my parents became very perturbed at my devotion to the bible and to going to services with him and so on and yelled that I should stop pretending I was something I was not and that I wasn't raised to be that kind of Christian. Things turned sour with Peter the Baptist. He wouldn't go to school dances because rock music was da debil. That, above all, shocked me more than anything because he looked so normal. I'd never heard of anyone outside of books and old movies who thought like that. We argued a lot about music, with me trying to point out how harmless lyrics were and he saying that it didn't matter because Satan was behind the music ultimately. I even tried to get him to accept Amy Grant as an acceptable musician and he said she was the worst of all because while she had once been a Christian musician she had abandoned it for fame and money. The bigger deal though was insistence that I would have to devote the rest of my life to praying for forgiveness for having been a whore to my last boyfriend. He told me I had deserved the beatings I had received from him because I myself was completely evil, and it was one of the worst things anyone has ever said to me. But still I wanted so much to be good in his eyes that for a while I bought it. The end of my association with his religion came one night at the Youth Ministry when the pastor showed a movie about the evils that non-Christian teens immerse themselves in (you know, sex, smoking pot, etc) and damning them all to Hell unless they atoned for their sins. My flip switched and it was over for me. After the film everyone had to close their eyes and then raise their hand as they came to accept Christ. I refused to do it, and the Pastor kept insisting over and over that anyone who didn't raise their hand was doomed to hellfire. I was practically shaking I was so angry, but not as angry as Peter beside me who had realized I was the hold-out and who was poking me, demanding that I raise my hand too. That was the end of our relationship, more or less.

By the end of my teens I had decided once and for all that religion wasn't for me. Eventually I figured out what I did have faith in: an arbitrary and accidental universe, the meaninglessness of existence excpet for that which I decide to attribute to my own life, and the finality of death. These are the things that comfort me. Especially when my life has gone through long periods of badness, the finality of death has been the thing I clung most tightly to. I could hardly wait. Strangely, now that my life is good, it still holds comfort for me. I think of my grandmother at Christmas dinner turning down a third helping while saying, It was lovely, but I've had enough. Any more would spoil it."

As an adult I've called myself an agnostic and then an atheist, and again an agnostic and so on back and forth for years. Lately I haven't been calling myself anything because I'm not sure a descriptor is something required to describe an absense. I'm also not a criminal, but I don't feel the need to describe myself that way.

Still I don't want to be arrogant in my non-belief. If religion -- whatever religion -- works for someone, I think that's great. If it explains the universe in a way that makes sense to them, if it offers them comfort in their darkest hours, if it provides a sense of community and purpose, if it fulfils a spiritual need in them, if it gives them faith that everything we're doing here on earth has some ultimate meaning and promises them everlasting peace and joy when they've shuffled off this mortal coil, I'm glad they have it. I no more want to convince anyone that my (non) beliefs are the real way and the truth and the light, than I'd want someone else like Peter the Baptist try to convince an already emotionally battered young girl that she was evil and deserving of whatever pain she was suffering because God says so. Dismissing someone else's beliefs or non-beliefs as intellectually sub-par or crazy or stupid or weak is as ignorant to my mind as any other kind of blanket condemnation I hear directed toward a person's sexuality or lifestyle choice. Condemning religion as being repsonsible for fostering a mindset that would excuse anything bad as being "God's will; and good is good, therefore this evil act was okay!" is simplistic and as stupid as condemning atheism as being responsible for fostering a mindset that would excuse any evil act because "there is no ultimate authority, everything is chaos so whatever goes, goes!" Sure bad things are done by people in the name of religion and also by people who believe in nothing. It's not the religion or lack of it that causes or excuses evil that happens, it's the people. And if someone hacks up their children because "God wanted me to and they'll be happier in heaven anyway" that's not the religion talking, it's the mental illness.

Religions are all interesting. Everytime I learn some other arcane (to me) fact, like the existence of the Sabbath Elevator zetteZettie mentioned yesterday, I'm fascinated. My thoughts don't automatically go to "how stupid these people must be to be too afraid to push a bunch of elevator buttons" anymore than I think the people who look for meaning through God's greater plan are deluded idiots.

So be it.

Date: 2005-07-23 12:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Can I get an Amen?

I really enjoy reading this sort of entry from you, Liana. You've got a terrific 'gift' for writing, and relaying your experiences. I can imagine what that room looked like, with your boyfriend poking you and the pastor having a fit.

Date: 2005-07-23 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks! That youth pastor was so young and friendly and almost "one of us" that it was truly scary to see him turn into something more malevolent before my very (closed) eyes.

Date: 2005-07-23 01:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Boy i wished this wasn't locked cause you say things so perfectly. I consider myself a religious mutt. I take a littel from each religion as it suits me, so I totally don't get the my religion is better than yours bit.

oh, just a minor pet peeve, if you are going to link to someone else's entry please make sure it's not locked.

Date: 2005-07-23 02:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Whoops! Sorry about that - I actually wanted to just link to the picture she linked to (see comment below). I should also make clear since the post that contains it is locked, that zette was in no way condemning or laughing at any aspect of religion - she was just showing the picture.

Date: 2005-07-23 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh also, I decided there was nothing overly personal in it so I unlocked it if you wanted to link it or direct someone else over or something. I'll probably lock it again in a day or so, but it's open at the moment.

Date: 2005-07-24 12:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks :) The person I wanted to read it has.

Date: 2005-07-23 01:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Were you linking to the pic- it didn't work. Here you go:

Great post- I agree about disparaging others beliefs. Who the hell am I to say? All I know is how I was raised and what I believe personally. My way of living is not far from the way most Christians profess to live, so I don't feel that far apart from them. I also enjoy church quite a bit, but I haven't been to one I can get behind in a long time.

Here in the south, your church IS your family- it's the social life, the family, it's who you turn to in crisis- it's 100% entwined into the lives of the people who attend. I think it's fantastic, personally.

I'm sick of reading posts about how stupid people are who believe and who embrace religion. Yours was a refreshing change for sure.

Date: 2005-07-23 02:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I r dum. Yes, it was the picture I wanted so thanks for linking that!

Date: 2005-07-23 03:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Great, great entry, Liana. I'm as non-religious as they come; we were raised entirely without it. I spent my whole high school career being mocked by LDS kids, and I will admit to thinking that they were stupid and all the rest of it back then. But now I see it differently, a lot like you see it, and I think that's an improvement.

You have a good weekend.

Date: 2005-07-23 04:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You grew up surrounded by Mormons? You poor, poor child. I thought you were from Las Vegas. But I can't envision Mormons wanting to live in Las Vegas. Now I'm confused.

Date: 2005-07-23 11:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Man I love it when you post things like this.

My first husband was a baptist, and while he wasn't nearly as ensconced in it as his parents (his father was the minister of the church) when we got married (in his church, of course) we had to have no alcohol and no music. (The devil, dontcha know.) Looking back now, I'm annoyed with myself for not speaking up and saying "Um... are you nuts?"

My parents raised me as nothing. I "found" religion myself when I was 14, and was "born again" and was one of those I-know-the-"REAL"-truth-c'mere-and-let-me-tell-you-all-about-it Christians until a couple of years ago when I woke up and realized how freaking obnoxious (not to mention naive) I was. Now I'm probably best described as agnostic. I still believe there's a higher power... feeling that way helps give me hope that the universe isn't just spiraling toward destruction, or worse.. nothingness, but I have no idea who He is, or where He is, or what His whole deal is. And organized religion is not for me in any shape or form.

So I guess you could say I've taken my spot up here on the fence. :)

Date: 2005-07-24 12:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow. There's religion and then there's RELIGION, yanno? That Peter Dude, I've known some people like him. I once went to a (supposedly non-denomenational) thing at a Baptist church, only to have to listen to an earful of out-and-out Catholic-bashing by people who did not know I was a Catholic.

Having said that, there's Catholic and then there's CATHOLIC, yanno? *L* I've been a catholic all my life and we're raising our daughter as such, but no one I know kneels down in the driveway to pray for washing machines and stuff. *L*

Date: 2005-07-25 11:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh my gosh, until you said that I'd almost forgotten how much he hated the Catholics! I think they were worse to him than a non-believer like me, was. Everyone was going to Hell in his books except for the most observant Baptists.

I can't beleive now that I put up with even five minutes of listening to him. He was pretty insulting.

Hey! And the washing machine did "fix" itself after Margie prayed for its soul or innards or whatever she was doing down there, so I can't knock it!

Date: 2005-07-24 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
PS: what's the story behind the sabbath elevator?

Date: 2005-07-25 11:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, it's an elevator that stops at every floor so that no buttons need be pushed. Pushing buttons is considered "work" and since there is to be no work on the Sabbath, this allows people to work around (heh) the rules.

Date: 2005-07-24 12:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What DID you use to cut out pictures at Allison's house? A switchblade?

Date: 2005-07-25 11:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My TEETH, of course!

Date: 2005-07-24 05:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Faith is inherent to humankind. If there wasn't such a concept, agnostism/atheism wouldn't exist. The best definition of faith I ever heard was "The belief in something you cannot see, hear, or touch, but you know in your heart it exists".

For a long time after my dad died I declared myself agnostic. My way of thinking was, "If God is good, then why did He take away Daddy?" Oh, I still went to Mass every Sunday, but it was mostly for show and breakfast out afterward. But did I believe? I wasn't sure.

What gets away from pure and simple faith is humankind's manipulation of it. Every organized religion manipulates it to a certain degree, depending on their "creed", if you will. I've always subscribed to the Quaker theory that everybody has God within them -- it's up to each of us to discover it not just within ourselves, but within each other. To me, that's the essence to faith.

Wow, you've given me a lot to think about...

Date: 2005-07-25 05:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Christianity can be interesting just like it can be atrocious. It is a tool that means all things to all people, which is why I find it empty. In the philosophy of logic, for example, we say that a sign that can be placed in front of every proposition is meaningless (what could it possibly distinguish?). I think this is true of popular Christianity. Of course people can find a meaning to put in the sign, and then only put the sign where they find it convenient, but the global behavior tends toward meaninglessness. And the idea that people can do what they want if it makes them feel better is what has allowed this meaninglessness to manifest.

Who were the Catholics to say who God was? And so Protestants came about. But by creating a body that by definition resisted dogma and tradition, it opened the door for the wishy-washy God of the every-man. And now who is anyone to say who God is? —which only means that God is anything any person wants it to be.

I find many things about religion interesting, especially the older "religions" that were more of a mythology than a metaphysic, e.g. gnosticism and the Greek pantheon. But it is precisely this useful religion that has been surplanted by the soporific religion we find permeating modern western existence.

What I don't find interesting are bromides that reveal the sickness that resides in modern, popular western Christianity, generally protestantism, which has tolerated disagreement about God to such a degree that it has lost any semblence of meaning. I don't think that it is close-minded to avoid being so open-minded that our brains fall out.

Date: 2005-07-25 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If the point of my post was lost along the way, it wasn't to debate the meaningfulness vs the emptiness of any religion, but to express my dismay at the way modern Christianity in particular has become somewhat a socially acceptable target against which people can fling insulting invective.

It's not close-minded to disagree with religion and to hold strong opinions, and one has every right to express those views, but it is intolerant and offensive to mock those who do believe and dismiss them as dumbfuck sheep who don't know any better. To do so in front of Christians is atrocious behaviour, bad manners and yes, a little arrogant.

Date: 2005-07-25 07:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's not close-minded to disagree with religion and to hold strong opinions, and one has every right to express those views, but it is intolerant and offensive to mock those who do believe and dismiss them as dumbfuck sheep who don't know any better.

But that's my point: believe what? That's Humpty-Dumptyism, where "belief" is in whatever the heck they want it to be (Humpty Dumpty said a word means exactly what he wants it to mean, nothing more and nothing less). I can't be tolerant or intolerant of that way of being. I can't look at it as representative of anything but meaninglessness. I can't look down or up at that which is immune from judgment because it could mean anything to anyone. I can't look at it at all. But I can look at the tendency to permit such radical subjectivism through the guise of tolerance and open-mindedness and dismiss that.

I generally try to be respectful of people who are willing to present their religious views towards me. Generally. As much as I am respectful of any disputable opinion people nonetheless fervently hold. But I don't agree with you that it is anywhere near a "socially acceptable target." 43 openly Christian presidents here in the US? "In God We Trust" on money? Something like 90%+ of people believe in some kind of higher power. Oh how I long for a day when we don't hear politicians mention, openly and without fear of repricussion, how godless people aren't worth listening to, like the godless commies, or George Bush making the (possibly apocryphal) comment about atheists, or etc.

I long, long for the day when it is socially acceptable to deride Christianity in the same way we deride all "defunct" religions: by studying them without exceptional interest as a piece of quaint, pastoral history.

Date: 2005-07-25 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, I understand - you find the whole rigmarole to be meaningless.

I don't understand why you "long for a day when we don't hear politicians mention, openly and without fear of repricussion, how godless people aren't worth listening to, like the godless commies, or George Bush making the (possibly apocryphal) comment about atheists, or etc." but at the same time "long, long for the day when it is socially acceptable to "deride Christianity in the same way we deride all "defunct" religions ...." because one would seem to allow the other, and anyway, in the second case I'd say that day has obviously already arrived.

Be that as it may, I still find that sort of open expression of contempt rude and disrespectful, which is my opinion and not really subject to further debate.

Date: 2005-07-25 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very well then.

Date: 2005-10-09 01:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You may remember me as the anonymous poster on smarklikeatruck's LJ some time back complimenting you on the icon and username, and how just that much info could elicit a favorable or unfavorable reaction on LJ. Or Maybe not.

In any case, a lovely post, and I realize it is old now, but really just wanted to pass on a couple o' coppers worth:

1st Penny:

Humans are pattern seeking animals (I expect it is due to the nature of the wiring of our brains). A life of no god(s), no purpose, no pattern is too terrifying for most to except. A life of pure kismet, or simple randomness, is so terrifying, indeed, that humans go to great lengths to impose order on the chaos -- even where that involves what psychiatrists in another setting would call "magical thinking." God(s) come to life, we have meaning, purpose, pattern -- even if we can't actually see it or know "His" purpose there is one. (Can you hear the desperation: "I *know* there is; there HAS to be!"

2nd Penny:

Have a read of "Buddhism Without Beliefs."

A short book that presents an interesting and ancient philosophy stripped of the magical thinking imposed by the many cultures through which it has passed.

Fun read.

Finally, you write well. I enjoyed this post, and hope you will write more. Hope you don't mind a lurker. (Grin).

H. Nonnymouse

Date: 2005-10-09 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, thanks! Are you my Hat Crush from way back? In any case I hardly post anything public, but I really run off at the mouth behind the friends lock, so I've added you and hope you don't regret the deluge of words from me.

Interesting thoughts on the need for patterns in the human mind. I will definitely look for that book on Buddhism. Based on a conversation I had with a friend recently, it's made me curious to look further into what all the philosophy of that religion encompasses.


Date: 2005-10-11 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yep, that's me.

Both the hat and the screen name created a fun persona.

I don't mind the deluge, although it meant it took me a long time to scroll back and find this post (grin).

Again , Thanks!

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